Erin Mallory Long
May 23, 2014 6:00 am

At the recent The Hollywood Reporter Emmy roundtable (which if you’ve never watched any of them you need to start, they’re great, and this one looks like it took place in Heaven), six of TV’s most successful actresses sat down and discussed their careers. Julianna Margulies from The Good Wife, Vera Farmiga from Bates Motel, Keri Russell from The Americans, Jessica Pare from Mad Men, Claire Danes from Homeland and Sarah Paulson from American Horror Story: Coven all discussed their careers and fun stuff like filming sex scenes while pregnant.

Inevitably they got on the discussion of whether roles are better for women in TV:

MARGULIES: But we’re so lucky. First of all, roles written for women are so much more complex on television. The film world is becoming quite flimsy for women. It’s so lovely having been doing this since I was quite young, and now to see all these movie stars wanting to do TV … there’s no real differentiation anymore, except to say you have a steady job. That feels so good.

FARMIGA: There’s just a deeper level of sophistication in the writing of female characters on TV.

MARGULIES: They’re also not scared of women working in television. My unit production manager is a woman, two of my executive producers are women and three of the writers.

PAULSON: Are there female directors on your show?

MARGULIES: Absolutely.

PAULSON: I’ve never had a woman direct our show.

MARGULIES: Oh, there should be. TV is a much more female-friendly environment. It’s so nice to be employed! The hardest thing about being an actor, and especially when you’re a woman trying to also have a family and a relationship, is to maintain some sort of normalcy. With television, you might not be home a lot, but you have a routine …

PAULSON: And structure.

MARGULIES: We all really need structure.

DANES: Even actors!

I think especially on TV now, comedies or dramas, there are a lot of more opportunities for women to play roles other than just The Hot Wife or The Naggy Wife or The Put Upon Wife. Even for young women like Kiernan Shipka on Mad Men, it’s incredible there’s a role that complex offered for an actor so young. I’m not sure that we can completely discount movies, though, which are also shifting towards more interesting and dynamic female roles. But the scope of television does seem to be an expanding medium for actors of all ages.

Because I’m greedy, I would have loved to hear Kerry Washington discuss the twists and turns with her role on Scandal (especially since she DEFINITELY had to do sex scenes while pregnant this season) as well as Robin Wright from House of Cards. And I don’t think any discussion of women on TV is complete without Tatiana Maslany from Orphan Black, who is one of the greatest actresses we have working right now. She creates not one but multiple strong female characters who are extremely different and it’s an actual joy to watch. (I know I sound like she’s my daughter or something but she’s not and also, that wouldn’t be possible.)

Since the mere way we consume television is ever-changing, it makes sense that roles for actresses would change as well. And it’s always refreshing to see new female roles on TV. Now excuse me while I just wait patiently for Orange is the New Black to return.

Images via The Hollywood Reporter

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